Bullying and teenagers

The Resonance of Resilience: How Music Amplifies Confidence and Self-Discovery

Bullying and How It Affects Teenagers

Bullying is a pervasive issue that deeply affects teenagers, often leaving scars that extend far beyond their school years. It can manifest in various forms - physical, verbal, and increasingly, cyberbullying. This past weekend I met a young man at one of my shows, and he was a prime example of what the long-term impact of such experiences in teenagehood can look like:

  • Quiet and withdrawn

  • Poor posture

  • Overly apologetic

Spotting the Signs of Bullying

Signs of bullying can include

  • Unexplained injuries

  • Frequently losing personal items

  • Changes in eating habits

  • Sleep disturbances

  • Declining grades

  • A reluctance to go to school or social events - or, if the abuse is at home - over eagerness to get out of the house.

The Effects of Bullying can be Invisible Too

Bullying can lead to severe emotional and psychological distress. Victims often experience anxiety, depression, and a significant drop in self-esteem. It can also impact academic performance and lead to physical health problems.

Anyway: I spoke with this young man for a few minutes - specifically about his posture [especially as someone who works in the hospitality industry] - and a few things came to light:

  1. He had grown up in an abusive home.

  2. The abuse he received from his parents fed into the abuse he then received at school.

  3. As a result, when he was finally old enough to leave home, he moved over 1000miles to get away from his home.

Which got me thinking: it's so easy to shrug off our young people as "resilient" and "headstrong" - especially in 2023, but the aftereffects that it can have on adulthood can be dire.

Which is one of the key reasons why I work with teenagers to help them channel their feelings, thoughts, ideas, struggles, and overwhelm into songwriting. Because, ultimately:

  • We all know hurt people hurt people... so when we give the "bullies" an opportunity to channel their hurts into something positive and empowering, we can start to be proactive with our anti bullying strategies, as opposed to reactive, when it comes to dealing with the aftermath.

And

  • When it comes to giving support to teens who are being bullied: again, songwriting can help them with their self esteem [especially if they struggle with feelings of shame or unworthiness], but also communicate about their mental health struggles, issues they're having with their parents, social media and cyberbullying, and even suicidal behavior. Music can act as a creative yet effective security blanket when it comes to giving young people the opportunity to express themselves, and be open about their experiences with being bullied.

But how does it work?

Creating Safe Space: Talking with Teenagers Who Are Being Bullied

Engaging in open, non-judgmental conversations is crucial. It's important to create a safe space where teenagers feel comfortable sharing their experiences without fear of disbelief or dismissal. Listening is key – often, they need a supportive ear more than immediate solutions.

To take this one step further, however, I've found it's equally as important to establish that when these conversations are happening, that the teenagers themselves are not feeling shame, embarrassment, guilt, or anger towards themselves.

We Can Use This Approach to Support Our Teenagers at Home Too

Creating a nurturing home environment where teenagers feel valued and understood is essential. Regular, open communication and showing interest in their lives can make a significant difference.

I've often spoken with parents about the value of putting time and space aside for establishing a safe opportunity for communication. Think of it like the Sweden of conversation. This means that when a young person is expressing their thoughts, feelings and experiences that they are able to do so without interjection, argument, or emotionally triggered responses from you, as their parent.

Which, I know, is a difficult task.

But giving them space to fully show up for themselves within the safety of their home - especially when it comes to them figuring out how to express their vulnerabilities and insecurities.

Why Do People Bully?

Bullying often stems from a need to exert control, stemming from the bully's own insecurities or issues. It can also be a learned behavior from environments where aggression is normalized.

Bullying in the Home

Unfortunately, bullying can also occur within the home. This form of abuse is particularly damaging as it undermines a child's sense of safety and security. Recognizing and addressing this is crucial for the well-being of the child.

What Parents Can Do to Prevent Bullying Behaviour against their Teenager

Parents can play a proactive role by fostering empathy and respect in their children from a young age. Open discussions about the impact of bullying and modeling respectful behavior are key strategies.

And while I know it can sound kind of obvious: another key thing that parents can do to prevent bullying is to ensure that they, as parents, take the time and energy to heal their own emotional trauma, improve their own mental health, and self esteem by ensuring that they are happy and healthy themselves. We all know hurt people hurt people, and - quite often unknowingly - that can manifest as parents expressing their unhealed trauma through abusive, manipulative, or unhealthy parenting.

I distinctly remember when I was teaching music at a university in New Zealand: continuing with my own education whilst lecturing. One of the students said to me one day "why are you studying? You're one of our teachers!". Learning doesn't end - whether you're an educator, or a parent. There is no shame in furthering your own academic journey, just as there is no dishonor in furthering one's mental health and well-being journey whilst simultaneously parenting.

Empower Teens to Cope with Bullying Behavior

Empowering teens involves equipping them with strategies to assert themselves, teaching them to seek help when needed, and building their confidence through positive reinforcement and activities that highlight their strengths.

Strategies Teenagers Can Do to Cope with Bullying

Engage in hobbies and interests, like music and performance, can be powerful outlets. These activities not only offer escape but also help in building self-esteem and finding communities of supportive peers.

Inform a responsible adult. Authority figures such as parents, teachers, or coaches are typically equipped to handle bullying situations discreetly, ensuring the bully remains unaware of the source of the information. Reporting bullying is crucial, especially when there is a risk of escalating to physical harm. Behaviors like stalking, issuing threats, and physical assaults are grave matters. Failing to report them can embolden the bully, potentially leading to increasingly violent behavior.

Avoid physical confrontations. Engaging in a fight with a bully increases the risk of injury and potential complications. Instead, channel your anger through alternative means like exercise [even self defense classes], or journaling [which is a key component to songwriting!]. Remember to safely dispose of any written material, such as emails, posts, letters, or notes, created in a moment of anger, or work with a coach to help you cognitively reframe disempowering or aggressive thoughts and feelings into more productive, empowered and healthy output

Discuss it. Speaking with a guidance counselor, teacher, or a friend – someone who can offer the support you need – might be beneficial. Engaging in conversation is an effective way to release the fears and frustrations that often accumulate when you're experiencing bullying..

This is one of the core reasons behind why I do what I do.

To go back to the story of the young man at my show this past weekend:

He was in his early 20's and had been raised in an abusive household, which spilled out into his school career. As soon as he was able, he moved almost 1000miles away to the state of Maryland, where he now lives by himself, earns his own money, and lives by his own rules. But he still struggled with the adult aftermath of being a trauma survivor... and when I asked him what his goals were [assuming he didn't want to be a waiter or busboy for the rest of his life], he told me that he'd always wanted to be a musician. Furthermore: he had started learning guitar and was teaching himself how to sing as well.

I took a moment to congratulate him. Not only had he removed himself from an unsafe and triggering environment, but he'd also done the work to start relying on himself, and leading a healthier, more positive life for himself.

Bonus.

But here's when things got interesting:

Near the end of my set, he approached me, and asked if he could play and sing a couple of songs. He'd never played publicly before. Of course, I said yes.

And he killed it.

Co-workers and patrons alike approached him with praise and admiration, and I'd never seen him smile as big as he did that night.

Which is a powerful reminder of the power that creativity that manifest within each of us.

Through music and performance, we can not only find our voices but also heal and grow from our experiences. As we empower our youth to navigate challenges like bullying, and use music as the roadmap to mental and emotional wellness: we pave the way for a more empathetic, understanding, and resilient society.

When you're ready, here are the three main ways we can work together:

  • One on one coaching - helping you [or your teenager] rewrite your perceptions of yourself, and the way the world perceives you: one powerful song at a time even if you've never written a song before. Perfect for those of you who are interested in an unconventional approach to youthwork and coaching.

  • Commissioned song - harnessing your brand, business or organization in one powerful anthem that can be used for teambuilding and rapport, brand-building, and advertising. Perfect for companies wanting to enhance or improve workplace culture, and are mission, vision, and purpose oriented.

  • Edutainment + workshopping - using keynote speaking and music together to elevate your business, organization or event. Perfect for event planners and coordinators who are looking for something impactful for their next retreat, conference, or training day.

Simply click here to book a free breakthrough call with me to learn more about how music and songwriting can help you or your teenager navigate the aftermath of bullying to become happier, healthier and successful going into 2024.

I look forward to speaking with you soon.

~ Emma G

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